BT was today forced to deny that it was paving the way for the introduction of a two-tier internet. It has announced that it’s going to offer faster internet to video-based websites if they want to pay for the privilege.
BT’s new service, dubbed ‘Content Connect’, will let internet service providers (ISPs) using BT’s broadband pipes to offer faster internet to video-streaming websites (like BBC iPlayer). But only if they’re willing to pay for it.
Critics have claimed that letting ISPs charge websites for faster delivery will mean the end of the principle of ‘net neutrality’, whereby all internet content (as long as it’s legal) is treated equally regardless of its content, origin, or destination.
Net neutrality under attack
Patrick Steen has already raised concerns over the death of net neutrality, following culture minister Ed Vaizey’s apparent support of a two-speed internet, where sites would pay a premium to get in the ‘fast lane’.
Vaizey’s speech sparked outrage amongst supporters of the open net, and many of you were similarly angered. ‘Wow, a two tier system would be monumentally bad’, said Scruff7, ‘the internet would end up like every high street in the country, dominated by the same shops and businesses.’ Mellenoweth agreed, ‘Net neutrality is a must, anything else is a cable service.’
As for Which?, we were among 19 signatories of an open letter to Ofcom and Vaizey urging them to put in place rules to protect the open internet. And what has the minister and regulator done in response? Nothing.
BT’s worrying new venture
And now BT – network owner and the UK’s largest ISP – is proposing to let providers charge video sites for faster delivery. I smell a rat. And a weasel – a BT spokesperson said in relation to the announcement, ‘BT supports the concept of net neutrality but believes that service providers should also be free to strike commercial deals should content owners want a higher quality or assured service delivery.’ Who are they kidding?
This is the first move towards a two-tiered internet that would discriminate against websites that want to offer high-bandwidth content (like video streaming) but can’t afford to pay ISPs for it. Surely that’s what we, as internet users, already pay our providers for? It’s moves like this that will see an end to net neutrality and stifle innovation on the internet.
But what else will such a system mean for you and me? If content providers are forced to pay more to deliver their services to consumers, my bet is that they’ll attempt to recoup this cost through consumers. Websites could either directly charge us to view certain content (like videos) or strike up deals with ISPs to create premium internet packages that include certain types of content (just like cable TV packages).
I for one am not happy with the idea of BT influencing what I can see over the net. Would you be happy to only have access to websites that can afford to pay ISPs for the bandwidth? Or are you with us in protecting net neutrality?